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Loyalty, survival and the new ‘Long March’ … Xi Jinping’s speech on 80th anniversary of Red Army’s epic military retreat

President Xi Jinping gave an hour-long speech to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the end of the Long March on Friday morning.

Speaking at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Xi urged unity and loyalty among Communist Party cadres as he called for a revival of the spirit of the Long March in the face of domestic and international challenges.

The Long March was an epic military retreat between 1934 and 1936 that was undertaken by the Communist Party’s Red Army to evade the Kuomintang army’s pursuit during the Chinese civil war.

Xi invokes spirit of ‘new Long March’ to reach Communist Party goals

The Red Army travelled more than 9,000km over some 370 days, passing through some of the country’s most difficult terrain, according to historical records.

As part of efforts to celebrate the Communist Party’s founding legacy, Xi, also the party’s general secretary, stressed the importance of unity under the party’s leadership and the need to establish a modern army.

We walk you through the four key messages of Xi’s hour-long speech.

The Communist Party needs to rejuvenate its revolutionary spirit

“The victory of the Long March reveals to us that you have the power to walk when you have belief in your heart. Without the support of an unbreakable belief and lofty ideal and faith, it is unimaginable to gain the success of the Long March,” Xi said.

“A nation that forgets its origins will find itself in a blind alley … No matter which stage our undertaking has developed to and how great the achievements we’ve made, we should carry forth the Long March spirit and advance in ‘a new Long March’.”

Survival is contingent on cadres’ absolute loyalty to the party and its leadership

Xi said the party was now facing “long-term, complicated” ordeals and that absolute loyalty to the party’s leadership was the only way of survival for the party, country and its people.

“We have to keep this in mind forever, that all the improvement we are carrying out are all based on a path with an anticipated direction rather than a changing direction, never to abandon the fundamentals of our party, our nation and our people,” he said.

“We must … firmly safeguard national unity as well as social harmony and stability, and firmly oppose any attempt to jeopardise … unity.”

A ‘modern Long March’ to achieve China’s policy goals

Xi also sought to connect his call for national rejuvenation to the historical Red Army. China was now experiencing a “new Long March” towards prosperity, he said.

“Today, our ‘Long March’ is to realise the ‘two centenary goals’ and the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation,” Xi said, referring to China’s two centenary goals to make country rich and prosperous.

“We have to be proactive to guard against economic risks and avoid risks of (political) upheavals” as China deals with its domestic and international challenges, the president said.

China to build a strong, loyal army

Xi reiterated his calls to build a strong modern fighting force in the face of global security challenges and pledged to “positively fulfil the obligations and duties that match China’s international role”.

“The triumph of the Long March also revealed to us that, the people’s army is the foundation of the revolution and the hope of a nation, and the army’s absolute loyalty to the party is the fundamental guarantee for people’s army to win a victory,” the president said.

“On our way on the ‘new Long March’, [we] must build a powerful army that matches the international position of our country and meets the needs of national security, in our bid to unswervingly fight to safeguard national safety and world peace.”